Judge Denies Conscience Protection for Medical Professionals

Nov 8, 2019

A federal Obama-appointed judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York struck down a proposed rule this week that protects healthcare individuals and entities from providing and participating in services such as abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide procedures that violate their religious and moral beliefs.

Judge Paul Engelmayer said the rule was “unconstitutional,” “too coercive” and would have impaired patient access, adding that the agency “has promulgated a rule that did not respond to any documented problem.” The court sided with 19 states and three local governments, Planned Parenthood and the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, all that argued the rule is a threat to abortion providers and LGBT activists.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the final conscience rule in May that protects healthcare individuals and entities from providing and participating in services that violate their religious and moral beliefs. According to the HHS, the rule requires hospitals, universities, clinics and other institutions that receive funding from federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to certify that they comply with 25 laws passed by Congress that protect conscience rights in healthcare. Those laws allow health providers and entities to opt out of providing, participating in, paying for or referring for healthcare services that they have personal or religious objections.

The final rule, which would have taken effect November 22, fulfills President Trump’s promise to promote and protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious liberty--a promise he made when he signed an executive order in May 2017 protecting religious liberty.   

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